09 September 2012

Annotated Game #62: One Must Think in the Opening

This last-round tournament game illustrates the importance of understanding your opening repertoire and being able to think on your own in the opening phase.  After inaccurate play from White (7. c4), Black prematurely launches the ...c5 break on move 9.  Although this pawn break is in fact a standard theme in the Classical Caro-Kann, here it only serves to validate White's inaccurate 7th move and gets an underdeveloped Black in trouble quickly.  Black would have had an easy path with simple developing moves and should have understood that the pawn break needed to be more fully prepared; normally it comes later (moves 12-15) in other variations.

Instead, White is handed an excellent attacking opportunity, which he takes after completing his development, gaining a clear advantage by move 12.  Black neglects his defense of the evil e-file and should have been punished for it on move 15, where the engines show White winning a piece.  However, White loses his nerve and goes for two piece exchanges.  The exchanges allow White to wreck Black's kingside pawn structure, but the disappearance of the attacking pieces and Black's extra pawn mean that the position is level.  White makes some additional demonstrations on the kingside, but his decision to again exchange an attacking piece on move 21 leads eventually to the draw.

Again I am struck by the usefulness of analyzing your own games as an improvement practice.  Had I been serious about this earlier in my career, it would have led more quickly to better performance.  In this case, the neglect of the e-file should have led to a loss and meant that Black was happy to end up with a draw.  My tendency to neglect this necessary defensive aspect of the position was evident in the previously analyzed game, but the lesson had not been learned.


  1. 8...Bxd3 looks like a mistake to me. 8...Bb4+ is very embarrassing for White. Even so, after 9.Kf1 Shredder gives only a slight advantage for Black. On general grounds, the exchange is questionable because it develops White's Q for free.

    1. Hello and thanks for the comment.

      ...Bb4+ on either the 8th or 9th move is certainly an excellent choice, probably best.

      I don't consider the Bxd3 exchange a mistake, even if it's not necessarily best. (Some people consider anything not the best move a mistake, but that's a philosophical debate best discussed elsewhere.) The bishop exchange is normally done in the Classical Caro-Kann in order to prevent Bxg6 from doubling Black's g-pawns and giving White better attacking chances if Black castles kingside. In this particular case, Black missed the opportunity to play ...Bb4+ first, an option not normally available in this variation. Black should have recognized what had explicitly changed in the nature of the position, versus the normal variations, after White played c4.

      In terms of computer evaluations, Houdini shows 8...Bb4+ as even, while 8...Bxd3 is shown as a slight advantage to White (0.15) that is still within standard range for equality. After Black's glaring 9...c5 error, the engine shows a +0.43 evaluation, with White's 10. d5 correctly exploiting the mistake.